Hooligans!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A true story from my past

Submitted: July 31, 2009

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Submitted: July 31, 2009

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O' Hooligans!

I had a very bad experience with a Hooligan once.

He had changed his name to Hoolahan (from O'hoolihan, or O'hooligan more like!)

My eldest son was attending the local grammar school, aged 15, already with some software sales to his credit. This was the early days of computing for the masses, early 1980s.

ZX80's and 81's, Ace, BBC schools computer etc.

Any youth with half a brain was trying to write commercial software games and sell them to the computer magazines which had sprung up in the wake of this nascent home computing industry.

My son, lets call him Jim, (not his real name), had already, a few years previously, 'hacked' into the University of Hull's mainframe to 'correct' some of the students software efforts.

These were the early days, and the student's memory and work areas were 'protected by a 4 digit pin number, (not unlike the frontline hole-in-the-wall dispensers which protect our money now, (I had wondered why card fraud was running at billions a year!))

So, a simple task for an eleven year old, to run a short program to try all the possible digits from 0000 to 9999... (no one had thought of the 'three tries and your out' thing yet.) in five minutes, he had a printed list of all the students and their pass codes, ah, happy days.

Anyway, back to school.

Jim's A levels were coming up and he needed time on the schools computers to write up his thesis, an early work on barcode scanning for small shops and it's implications, as I recall.

The maths teacher had been a friend of mine from the local chess club who made sure all his students who showed any talent in this area got plenty of opportunity to use the computers, however he decided to get into buying and renting real estate, and did rather well out of it as I recall, (and he was taking a law degree at the same time).

His replacement was Mr. Hoolihan. (not, Dr. Hoolihan, you will note) Now, this guy might have had some talent as a maths teacher, I was never to find out, as his ability with computers was non existent, and to cover this up, he decided that the time on the school computers after school hours, which had traditionally been used by the A level students, (ostensibly to fine tune their theses, but more likely to write games software etc.) would be better employed by the remedial classes to introduce them to this new 'science'.

Of course, the 'rems' were only interested in playing games on these computers, and Jim, finding himself excluded took a dim view of this.

On the first occasion he had some time allowed, on a school computer terminal he wrote a small program called SPACE INVADERS!

What this program did, was to flash a colourful screen with the title whilst saying 'LOADING PROGRAM PLEASE WAIT'.

What it was doing was filling all the hard disk storage space with anagrams of the words Mr. Hoolihan. In a totally randomised way with repetitions allowed. (It never ran out of anagrams).

Of course in a few minutes all the available disc space was filled up and an error message was generated by the system, 'Disc space full please insert new disc'.

Unfortunately, the 'rems' desire to play space invaders caused all the virgin discs to become filled also.

Oh dear!

Eventually the old Maths teacher had to be called in to sort out the bug in the system.

The next time I saw him at the chess club, he told me that the only kid at the school with the 'nous' to write such a program so effectively was Jim, although he had vehemently denied it.

My son, a chip off the old block.


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